Not many people can say they led their own Thanksgiving Day parade. The lead vehicle was a sheriff's squad car, I rode the back of said car wearing my grandfather's big yellow rain slicker over my underpants. That's all. I Learned later that a State police car, an EMT bus, a fire truck, three pickups, and a tractor followed. Now, this is on a very desolate road with miles and miles of flat farmland, post-harvest so all those lights and sirens (trucks and cars of volunteer firefighters who had portable flashing red lights) put on quite a show – if a vehicle had lights and/or sirens, they were all screaming and flashing their little hearts out.
Here's what happened, believe it or don't.
My Aunt prepares Thanksgiving dinner every year, and all that work usually ends in some sort of ruckus; Aunties two sisters put on a one-up show by wearing something with a designer tag still hanging somewhere quite visible, thus they don't speak to each other unless its a hiss and a lot of eye-rolls. Uncle Jim and Uncle Fred (or The Druncles as we call them) get annoyed with each other over something really important, like football. Nothing physical, yet. Then one of the little kids pitches a fit because they're 'too old to sit at the kid's table', which of course sets off the rest of them. So, this year I decided to help Auntie with the preparations and punched out construction paper turkeys for place cards, hoping to keep the crankies as far apart as possible.
I hid the strong alcohol under the bathroom sink upstairs (and did not put the rum in the punch,} and tried to arrange it so the kid's table was joined to the end of the adults' table, in hopes that not so many guests would end in tears or jail.
I arrived two days before Thanksgiving to help Auntie do other important things like boil eggs, boil potatoes, and boil anything else that needed boiling, and set the table. I was told to make sure the house was clean, and it was so clean it would pass a CSI inspection.
Eighteen people were expected, but there is always a 'plus one or three.'
Auntie had two turkeys thawing in the fridge, a ham, and a tofurkey that I'd brought for the vegetarians. The first day and night kept us busy peeling, snapping, or scrubbing vegetables and soaking or brining them. So, the first day and night were busy, but uneventful. Although there was so much to do and cook that I suggested I just go to Kroger and buy 20 Stouffers frozen turkey dinners. If looks could kill, I'd be headed for the crematorium.
The second night, one night before touchdown, was when it all went sideways.
It was the middle of the night and I was sound asleep. Then the
WAAAANNKK WANNNK! An air horn made me sit straight up, next, I heard Auntie yell, “HELP! LUCY GIT OUT HERE! HELP!!!
I sleep in my underwear, well the bottom part, but ran downstairs as I was and grabbed Uncle Herb's large, yellow rain slicker from the hook by the back door and pulled on his boots, and of course, they were too large and I had a sort of duck then slide gait.
The air horn blasted again, yikes, in the pitch-black fenced-in backyard. As luck would have it, a head-lamp thingy was in one slicker pocket, so I pulled that on as well – all of this couldn't have taken more than a minute, but I'm sure it was light-years for Auntie.
What the fork was going on? I wondered. Was the house on fire? An alien invasion? Did Auntie get into the bottle of rum I'd brought for the punch?
I raced through the back screened-in porch, yelling, “AUNTIE!? What's happening? Where are you?”
"Lucy?" She was she sported her own headlamp
that nearly blinded me.
My Auntie was in her sixties, and healthy, but out of breath and finally gasped, “Lucy my babies got out, three of them! Please help me find them?”
Jesus wept, and here I was thinking she'd fallen or caught in a zombie attack.
I shielded my eyes and followed the light. Squinting, I reached out and started, what I thought, was her back, her startling her into an AHHH!!” Something felt weird
I tried to pat her back and soothe her again, but instead of her back I got hands full of very soft and large breasts!. She let out a screech and started flailing at me.
“Auntie, it's me! Lucy! Auntie, you have your head lamp on backward!”
I fixed it and she said, “Oh, good I thought it broke.”
“Auntie, should I call 911?"
"Should I call 911?"
"I don't think they'd send someone to save chickens.”
"No, should I call them for you! Are you okay?”
She huffed and said, “Lucy, the chickens aren't on fire, they are just loose in the yard, and there was a man, but he ran away. I sort of freaked out, sorry.”
She turned and scanned the yard, revealing one chicken running around in circles, and the other two just poking for a late-night snack of worms.
You should know, dear reader, that Auntie's chickens were like family to her, each one has a name and she brought them into the house during severe cold spells. She also sold the eggs for a little income and when their time was up, a “Chicken for meat” the poultry farmer nearby took them and replaced them with baby chicks. Each chick was the name of their predecessor. So these weren't just any chickens, they were Auntie's children, kind of.
"Here help me corner that one." She said and held her bath robe
open, like a vampire's cloak, and told me to do the same, I obeyed and we were able to corner Mable between the fence and the house.
. It was so dark out there, cave dark and our headlights weren't quite up to the job. One has to find a chicken with a flashlight and then use the headlamp to close in on them – sort of. We had more of a nightclub light show going on and it wasn't working.
Auntie picked Mable up, she squawked and flew into my face. I gave a little screech of my own, not knowing if a cornered chicken might peck my eyes out.
Auntie said, “Don't be afraid, Lucy. Mable was just scared. Usually, all my girls are gentle, they don't peck. Nope, no peckers in my bunch.” and added, "That's no Mable."
This statement struck me as funny and I began to laugh and soon
it escalated into the 'I need clean underwear' laugh. The harder I tried to stop, well, you know how you think of what started it, and you're gone again. But finally,I got myself sorted and began looking for Zelda or Clara, or whoever still ran wild in the yard. No luck.
I heard sirens approach and flashing red and blues filling the surrounding countryside and wondered what had happened. Well, WE happened
I still laughed but continued looking for the missing birds.
One of the police cars, lights aflame, opened his door and the poor guy probably thought I might be a dangerous felon, bent over and chasing an invisible hen, with feet making a kind of clomp, slide sound.
"STOP right where you are!”
"ME?" I asked over my shoulder.
"Yes you! Take off the light and drop it, NOW!”
I'm a city girl and knew to obey!
He aimed his thousand-watt LED flashlight at me had a strange look on his face as he approached and gasped "What the hell?"
That's when I remembered as I raised my hands high over my head, and the slicker fell open, I was nearly naked."
My Aunt came from the back porch, startling the officer into waving for the second cop to join him. I don't think guns were drawn. I'm sure we looked crazy and dangerous. Auntie brought out a large net on the end of a lengthy metal pole. I think it's called a bait or minnow net.
The second cop saw me and said, "Hey, Lady! Cover yourself."
I lowered my hands and cop number two countered with, "HANDS UP!" They gasped in unison and said, "Turn Around!" which helped the naked problem.
"Number one yelled for Aunte to "Drop the . . net . . . pole . . .whatever you have and raise your hands."
Auntie ignored them and ran toward me as the cops advanced and yelled for her to "STOP! RAISE your hands!" The net on the pole hit the ground behind me. Maybe they thought Auntie was threatening to net me to death? How could they know, right?”
A side note. Nothing happens out here in the early morning hours, save for the time old Mr. Riddly tried to avoid hitting deer and and slammed his huge old Buick into the Johnson's front room. No one was hurt, the Johnsen's were safe in their beds, but the townsfolk still talk about it and it happened in the nineties. All of the lights and horns and sirens were a big deal.
Of course, every neighbor, all four of them, jumped in their trucks and raced to see what all the lights and sirens were about. We heard tires screeching to a halt in the front yard and vehicle doors opening, then slamming shut. More lights and sirens. Jesus take the wheel.
Auntie and I still had our backs turned and our arms high in the air.
Then we heard, Miss Lou? Are you Okay? from the nearest neighbor, who apparently called 911 when she heard Auntie yelling, using her emergency air horn, then saw lights bobbing and weaving behind the house.
I asked, "Officer, um, may I lower my hands? It's cold out here."
Auntie added, "Yeah and my old arms are sinking."
"They're okay, officer, they live here!" said someone from the crowd, followed by a chorus of agreement.
We were allowed to lower our hands, I clutched the slicker around me and we turned to see two cops and a cluster of people standing behind them, also shining their assorted lights at us.
The officers said, 'Okay, calm down!” I think he saw pitchforks and flaming torches on the wind. However, they still had to take me to the station to fill out a report and explain 'what the hell was going on.”
Since Auntie was deemed too old and frail to go with the police, the ambulance, which of course was there as well, took her to the hospital to get her checked over.
She resisted, yelling, “Two of my girls are still out there!”
They're not safe, foxes, coyotes, and soon hawks will be after 'em."
"Don't worry Miss Lou, we'll get them for ya'" Yelled a woman from the crowd.
She replied, "Thank you! Put them on the back porch, please. And would you check on the others?"
Well, it turns out that the three renegade birds didn't even belong to Auntie. Someone, the perp was never caught or even looked for, had three unwanted chickens and figured my Aunt might want them. An anonymous donor was written on the appropriate line in the police
The neighbors, police, EMTs, State Police personnel, were all worried about us, and our T-day being canceled due to the grapevine, that had me in prison or on a wanted poster and Auntie on life support in the ICU.
Thus, all the folks in the crowd and the police delivered two roasted turkeys, four three-bean casseroles, cranberry sauce shaped like a can, a half dozen pies, and a puppy giving Thanksgiving a kind of funereal vibe. Auntie still has the pup and named her Pumpkin Spice.
Due to all the excitement the night before, our guests were very polite and well-behaved, fearing Auntie or I would collapse or have our own T-Day breakdown.
So, that's how I got the lead in a Thanksgiving Parade!